University of Iowa administrators discuss sustainability goals, ending coal in power plant


University of Iowa power plant, by Dave Smith, flickr

Tyler Chalfant | October 31st, 2019

University of Iowa administrators met Thursday to discuss the school’s sustainability goals. This meeting followed months of protests from Iowa City students and community members, including a visit from international climate activist Greta Thunberg. The strikers have called on the university to create a Town-Gown Climate Accord with the city and to end coal burning at the university’s power plant. 

None of the strikers were invited to participate in Thursday’s meeting. Stratis Giannakouros, the director of the UI Office of Sustainability and the Environment, said that this sort of meeting addressing the university’s climate goals is fairly routine. 

The university has committed to ending the burning of coal by 2025, although the strikers are demanding that this change happen much sooner than that, and that the power plant transitions to 100% renewable sources by 2030. 

The university plans on entering into a public-private partnership, or P3, to operate its utilities system. University President Bruce Harreld has stated that the partnership will not alter the plan to stop burning coal by 2025, although some bidders are interested in stopping even earlier, by 2023. 

Senior Vice President of UI Finance and Operations Rod Lehnertz told the Daily Iowan that he thought that deadline was realistic, and that many of the finalists for the P3 were drawn to the university specifically because of the desire to get rid of coal. “All of them have said that the first thing they want to do is explore our plans for 2025, and how we can expedite that,” Lehnertz said.

Iowa regents approve new power plant for UI campus


The current main power plant for the University of Iowa sits along the Iowa City on Burlington Street. (Facilities Management/University of Iowa)
The current main power plant for the University of Iowa sits along the Iowa River on Burlington Street. (UI Facilities Management)

Nick Fetty | March 13, 2015

Earlier this week the Iowa Board of Regents approved plans for a $75 million power plant to provide energy for buildings on the west side of the University of Iowa’s campus.

Similar to the current UI Power Plant, the West Campus Energy Plant will create steam to power heating, cooling, and sterilization systems. The new plant is expected to be able to create up to 300,000 pounds of steam per hour, slightly less than the 480,000 pounds of steam per hour the current plant produces.

“The University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics, research and residential services require continuous, uninterrupted supplies of steam,” said Glen Mowery, director of Utilities and Energy Management, during in an interview with the UI’s news service Iowa Now. “The new plant will not only ensure continuity of services to our most critical health and research facilities, but also provide back-up service to both sides of campus while providing the most flexibility in fuel sources.”

The new plant will be able to provide power for the entire campus in the event of flood waters inundating the old facility or during potential grid failure. Additionally, the new plant will be able to utilize currently existing rail and truck lines to provide a direct supply of biomass fuel which is part of the UI’s 2020 Vision.

The proposal calls for the plant to be constructed northwest of the Finkbine Commuter Lot between Hawkins Drive and Finkbine Golf Course. Construction is expected to begin in two years and the facility should be operational by 2019.

Low water levels force power plant to dredge Cedar River


Photo by NRCgov, Flickr.

Two days ago we reported that low stream flows are negatively impacting water recreation in Iowa. The low water levels are also forcing the Duane Arnold Energy Center nuclear power plant to dredge a portion of the Cedar River.

The power plant uses water from the Cedar River to cool steam after it has been used to generate electricity. Without the water, the power plant would not be able to operate.

If the Cedar River’s water levels get too low, there’s a chance that the power plant would have to temporarily shut down.

Read more from The Gazette here.

Alliant Energy to built natural gas power plant in Marshalltown


Photo by rocketjim54, Flickr.

Alliant Energy has announced plans to build a power plant in Marshalltown fueled by natural gas. Originally, Alliant wanted to build a coal-fired plant, but they changed their plans due to public outcry.

Alliant also plans to invest $430 million in environmental upgrades at their coal plants in Ottumwa and Lansing.

If Alliant’s plans are approved, the power plant in Marshalltown will open in 2017.

Read more from the Des Moines Register here.

On the Radio: Cleaner air means more jobs for Iowans


Photo by Charles Kremenak, Flickr

Check out this week’s radio segment on reducing air pollution and stimulating Iowa’s economy.  Listen to it here and read the transcript below.

If plants and factories across Iowa work to limit air pollution, they won’t just be protecting the environment and our lungs – they’ll be building our workforce too. Continue reading